Plastic wins UA student an innovator award

Top university honor goes to management-information professor
2013-03-29T00:00:00Z Plastic wins UA student an innovator awardTom Beal Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
March 29, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Jared Griebel, the University of Arizona's Student Innovator of the Year, has some "retro" advice for researchers interested in a business plan.

"It's like they say in 'The Graduate' - 'plastics.' "

Griebel, born 20 years after the 1967 movie in which Dustin Hoffman's Benjamin Braddock character received that famous piece of career advice, said Thursday that creating sulfur-based copolymers that have the potential to revolutionize battery production was actually "really easy - if you have the right set of tools in your toolbox."

Griebel, a third-year graduate student in the UA's department of chemistry and biochemistry, said he found those tools in his program and the guidance needed to wield them.

Griebel was honored Thursday at the 10th annual Innovation Day put on by the UA's Office of University Research Parks.

Greibel's discoveries could translate a problem - waste sulfur - into an opportunity to create batteries from his electrochemically active copolymer. Three companies with an interest in developing them are working with samples of his novel plastic.

The Innovator of the Year was Hsinchun Chen, a professor of management information systems at the Eller College of Management.

Chen shared the innovator award when it was first given 10 years ago for his development of COPLINK, a computer information system that he described Thursday as "Google for cops."

It proved wildly successful and is now used by more than 4,000 public safety agencies. Chen and the UA commercialized the technology in 1999, forming a company called Knowledge Computing, which later merged with a company called i2 and was bought by IBM for $500 million in 2011.

More recently, Chen has turned his analytical skills to searching for international terrorists, creating a Dark Web program that he said is "10 to 20 times more complicated" than the domestic version, with a massive database of information from around the world in a variety of languages.

He also developed Diabetic Link, which mines medical records to aid patients and clinicians in making decisions about care for people with chronic disease. Chen said it has applications for other diseases, with work under way on Parkinson's disease, lung cancer and breast cancer.

Six other UA "Leading Edge" researchers were honored Thursday at a conference and luncheon on campus:

• Dr. David Armstrong and Manish Bharara of the Department of Surgery's Southern Arizona Limb Salvage Association, for advances in amputation prevention, mobility and quality of life for diabetic patients.

• Raina M. Maier, professor of Soil/Water and Environmental Sciences, for discovery of environmentally friendly biosurfactants that could replace more toxic surfactants in a variety of industries.

• Dr. Leslie Boyer, associate professor of pathology and pediatrics, for development of antivenoms for snake, scorpion and spider venom.

• Lars R. Furenlid, professor of medical imaging and optical sciences, for advances in molecular imaging that could aid in treatment of many diseases, including cancer and heart.

• Salim Hariri, professor of electrical and computer engineering, for development of algorithms to defend computers and networks from cyberattacks.

A community partner award was given to Tucson attorney Lawrence Hecker and a lifetime achievement award was given to attorney and former Arizona Regent Donald Pitt.

Contact reporter Tom Beal at or 573-4158.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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